Wednesday, January 6, was a dark day. The world looked on as disaffected Trump supporters stormed what should have been a fortress—the United States Capitol. Congressional offices were trashed, over 80 arrests were made, and five people tragically lost their lives once all was said and done. Typical of political violence, it was a futile, nihilistic endeavour.
This was an event that people across the political spectrum are still grappling with. The progressive story is that this was a fascist insurrection — Trump’s last stand to overturn democracy and thwart the transition to a Biden presidency.
Blame certainly rests at the feet of Donald Trump. Staging a rally in Washington DC on certification day, giving a “we will never concede” speech, and then telling the agitated crowd to march towards Capitol Hill as the vote was being counted — these events were the immediate context for what then took place.
Nevertheless, the idea that Trump intended for or incited his supporters to storm Congress and stage a coup d’état is only convincing for those who already buy the “Orange Hitler” narrative, and who believe the sun shines out of CNN studios.
Yes, true to form, Trump increasingly put his ego before his nation during these last few desperate weeks. But to the dismay of his critics, he’s been disappointing as a dictator.
Trump struck historic Middle East peace, began no new wars, brought thousands of troops home, and never touched those dastardly nuclear codes. Indeed, for all the criticism he might deserve for his handling of the pandemic or last year’s riots, President Trump never seized the kind of power that more agreeable Western leaders embraced with abandon.
The raid on Capitol Hill will for ever be a stain on Trump’s presidency. And it is a major setback to the populist movement more broadly. But only the cynical could view it as somehow divorced from the broader political violence that has unfolded over the last 12 months.
“Protesters should not let up,” is what Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said of the Black Lives Matter crowds, whose bail fees she publicly fundraised for.
“The whole point of protesting is to make ppl uncomfortable,” tweeted Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the same demonstrations. Bear in mind that AOC wrote these words after dozens of people had died and over a billion dollars of damage had been done in American cities.
“Please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” prodded CNN host Chris Cuomo. Evidently it had been a while since he brushed up on the First Amendment of the US Constitution. And who can forget CNN’s chyron during the Kenosha arson attacks, which read, “Fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”
Those now wagging their fingers the hardest at the Capitol siege have a choice to make. Either riots are “the voice of the unheard”, or they are domestic terrorism. To pick and choose between these labels depending on one’s political instinct is the very definition of hypocrisy. Perhaps it betrays a streak of autocracy too.
The simple fact is that violence was normalised throughout the American summer. Countless American cities were subjected to riots, arson and looting as mayors and governors winked at the woke and gave all-too-placid rebukes.
In election season, Trump himself was hindered by a chattering class that screamed “stormtroopers” at any hint of military intervention. A New York Times editor lost his job for publishing an op-ed that suggested the same.
All the while, the prestige media were tight-lipped as extremists in Portland set fire to a federal courthouse, and established an autonomous zone at Seattle’s Capitol Hill. As of writing, the seven-month siege on that city continues, unbeknownst to most of the nation.
A mob storming America’s temple of democracy was chilling to behold. But to view it as a unique evil in contemporary America is a little one-eyed. It was wrong, but by today’s standards, it was also normal.
So where to from here?
Well, the purge has begun. President Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter—even as the Big Tech behemoth was happy for a CCP account to sing the praises of China’s Uygher concentration camps. (It was later removed.)
President-elect Joe Biden heralds a new age of “peace and unity”, and Michelle Obama counsels the nation that, “It’s up to each of us to do our part. To reach out. To listen.” Meanwhile, Facebook purges the #WalkAway page—made up of half a million disaffected liberals led by gay icon Brandan Straka, whose account and entire paid staff were purged from the platform.
To believe that the republic is doomed if the other party takes power is a dangerous and unstable path to embark upon, as the events of Wednesday revealed.
But the knife cuts both ways. As a repudiation of Trump and all that he represents is turned into a test of who is allowed to partake in polite society, the progressive class must take a long, hard look in the mirror.
To treat the Capitol raid like the Reichstag fire is to beckon tyranny.